Multi-million pound funding boost for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire schools
Norfolk, Suffolk and Fenland schools are set for a multi-million pound boost as part of government attempts to make funding fairer for pupils, David Laws said today.
The Education Minister said the money will be available for 2015/16 and insisted no local authority or school will lose cash because of the proposal.
In Norfolk the new school funding consultation proposes an extra £16m for Norfolk schools, increasing annual per pupil funding from £4,334 to £4,494. While in Cambridgeshire an extra £20.5m will be made available to increase funding per pupil from £3,950 to £4,225. Suffolk will see a 2.5% increase per pupil to £4,347 - an increase of £9.2m.
Mr Laws said it was the first step in the transition to fairer funding, with plans to go out to consultation and further announcements expected once future long-term spending proposals are outlined by the Government.
Making a statement on school funding in the Commons, Mr Laws said the cash would aim to address funding disparities at a national level.
He said: “In the spending review last summer, the Government announced that it would consult on how to allocate schools funding in a fairer way - and we will now do this.
“Today I can confirm in 2015/16 we will take the first huge step to delivering this fairer national funding, and this will be the first time in a decade that funding has been allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools, rather than simply on the basis on historic levels of spending.”
Mr Laws said a multi-year process of moving all local authorities toward a single-funding formula would not take place until greater certainty could be given over long-term public spending plans.
He went on: “But the case for action is so strong that we intend to act immediately... to deliver a substantial £350m boost to schools in the least fairly funded local authorities in the country.”
Mr Laws added: “No local authority or school will lose from this proposal but around four in 10 areas will gain and we’re able to deliver this significant boost by using money from within our protected schools budget and because of additional money from the Treasury.
“So while this is only the start of the transition to fairer funding and eventually a national funding formula, it is the biggest step towards fairer schools funding in a decade.”
Addressing the consultation, Mr Laws said it was proposed that every local authority would attract a minimum funding level per pupil and school in an attempt to allocate the extra money fairly from 2015.
The minister told MPs there will be a basic amount of cash allocated for each pupil, which considers if they are from a deprived background, if English is not their first language, if they have low levels of attainment and if they are looked after, for example, by foster parents.
Mr Laws said: “We also propose to set a minimum level of funding that all schools should attract regardless of size to help with fixed costs, such as employing a headteacher and to help smaller schools.
“My plan to set a minimum level of additional funding that schools in sparsely-populated areas - schools which are vital to serving rural communities - should attract.
“We will also, of course, apply higher funding to certain areas where teacher pay costs are higher.”
Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: “For many years, Norfolk schools have not been getting a fair deal due to the complex way in which school funding is allocated. While more money has been pumped into education overall, Norfolk hasn’t benefited as much as many other parts of the country. We’ve fallen behind as other areas have benefited, and the funding gap for Norfolk’s children is more than £200 below the national average.
“The extra £16m proposed for Norfolk will mean that we are put on a stronger footing locally. It will mean that Norfolk schools are in a stronger position to attract and retain excellent teachers, and Headteachers will have more resources to invest in our children’s education.
“Taken together with the £30m expected next year in Norfolk through the Pupil Premium funding for disadvantaged pupils, this funding boost will give every child the chance to succeed.”